In the late 18th Century, Russian ruler Catherine the Great chose to visit the villages of her country to see how the peasants were living. Her first minister, Potemkin, arranged to have façades of fake villages filled with actors constructed along Catherine’s route that showed a scenic, peaceful and prosperous country. Actors played the parts of the peasants, and Catherine remained in the confines of her carriage as she travelled through. Potemkin feared that Catherine might react badly if she encountered the despair and poverty that was really being faced by the Russian serfs, and as a result of his actions Catherine saw a healthy, happy nation. The idea of a fake façade built to distort a view became known as a Potemkin Village.
It is difficult to deny that Kraftwerk have been an astoundingly influential band since their formation in 1970. Revolutionary at the time, the German quartet incorporated an almost entirely synthesised music in an attempt to foreground the oncoming new media phase. But one of the more interesting quirks about Kraftwerk is not necessarily their music itself, but the idea of time that surrounds their music. With its industrial, drum-machine-driven synth and robotic sound, the music was designed to be “music of the future” in the 70s. However, it has since dated due to the technology that they employed in making it, and has instead placed them irrevocably at a certain point in the past. They are a band that lack a temporal definition, both part of the past and part of the future.
The digital age is popularly seen as an age of infinite information. It is described using terms like “interactivity” and “new media”, and is highlighted as an era that allows for the endless access of customised information at the fingertips of every individual user. The result is often a transient relationship between the user and the information, and as a result the idea of time, and our use of time, is becoming topical in current cultural writing.
Apologies to readers for the 2-week hiatus – I have been mid-adventure and things have been too hectic to write. This piece and the next few will follow up on this. Posts will be back to regularity from this week.
In Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, the protagonist Bernard Marx finds himself on a holiday visiting a rural reservation. The visit is an insightful event showing a strange community that live outside of the “social norm” of this urban-centred world. This journey marks a decisive moment in the novel, where Bernard’s story is turned on its head by the people that he encounters and the adventure that he has with the “savages” in the wilderness.
This separation of urban and rural in Brave New World was part of Huxley’s tongue-in-cheek mockery of the society that he believed he was watching develop. The greatest threat brandished to citizens in Huxley’s dystopia is being forced to move to Iceland – a desolate and unpopulated island. This relocation was the deepest fear for Bernard, who was pleasantly settled in the urban landscape of central London.